Christopher Rizzo

Christopher Rizzo is a writer and editor who lives in Albany, New York. His critical and creative work has appeared in Art New England, The Cultural Society, Cannibal, Dusie, Effing Magazine, Jacket, Process, and Spell among other publications. He has authored several poetry collections, most recently Supposed to Sound (ungovernable Press, 2008) and Playing the Amplitudes (BlazeVox Books, 2008). In 2009, Greying Ghost Press rereleased his short sequence Naturalistless. In 2010, Boat Train will publish his new chapbook, Tmēsis / In Other Words Continuing, which documents the documentary “Philip Guston: A Life Lived.” The founding editor of Anchorite Press, Christopher is currently a doctoral candidate in English at the University at Albany.

What is (or has been) your favorite editing project and why?

The editing of Anchorite press has always involved a learning curve. The press began when I became interested in producing broadsides for a reading series in Boston organized by Jim Behrle, a fine poet in his own right. After producing a number of broadsides in different formats—single sheet, single fold, two fold, four fold with clear vellum wraps, and so forth—I designed and produce simple pamphlets, and there is only a small step from pamphlet to chapbook. Since I had no formal training, each editing project was an adventure in education.

In terms of editing projects, I find chapbooks especially gratifying work. It almost goes without saying that the main challenge is to negotiate between a consistently underwhelming production budget on the one hand and, on the other, a principled belief that the design of each chapbook should prove as particular to the text as possible.

That said, however, I admittedly prefer a simple, unrefined, and organic feel to the chapbooks that I produce. In this sense, I sympathize with the thoroughly Romantic position taken against the then emergent mechanisms of industry in the nineteenth-century, although my take on the contemporary relationship between the organic and the cultural, which is outside the scope of the present discussion, would, suffice it to say, trope Coleridge in his grave.

In any event, to choose my favorite chapbook project is obviously not on a par with, say, the choice of my favorite color. What is more, favoritism suggests a degree of competition that comes with any hierarchical territory, which, especially in this instance, does not sit well. How does one answer, then, the intriguing question of my “favorite editing project”?

Given that Anchorite Press is extremely micro, I propose to develop a manageably brief list of thoughts on each chapbook that I have worked on over the past five years or so. While a chapbook is not a chapbook is not a chapbook, Gertrude Stein’s phrase “useful knowledge” seems alternatively apt in this instance. Hopefully, the following list will prove a useful recounting of adventures.

•           What Ever Belongs In the Circle, Noah Eli Gordon (2004)
While designing this chapbook I discovered how much I preferred the use of deckled, textured cover stock. The deckle not only gave the cover an organic character, but it also allowed for inconsistencies in the length of the text stock after folding, which eliminated the need for an edge-trim. I also realized that materials do not exist in a vacuum, but rather work together to form a whole. Although I understood that color perception is context specific, for example, I hadn’t previously considered how everything is particular to a specifically lived context, including the paper used for chapbooks. While the idea of gold endpaper sounds gaudy, in practice the linen text stock, the natural colored cover stock, and the gold endpaper worked together to warm the entire design. Perhaps the most interesting twist on the cover was the use of red ink. The title was set in black ink, with the word “belongs” situated singly. I then centered the “o,” inking the letter in red to highlight circularity.

•           Grim Little, Mark Lamoureux and Christopher Rizzo (2004)
The materials for this project were all in-house, so I spent little to nothing on production. For pragmatic reasons I tend to favor lighter colors for covers, but the smooth chocolate cover gave this chapbook an aptly dark feel. To offset the heavy-handedness of the cover, I used an endpaper with tissue-like transparency, which gave an indeterminate, eerie quality to the title-page text, which was in line with the narrative of the text. With this project, I learned that subtle watermarks can add character to a design, too. What looks like a production mistake on one book may very well look suited to another.

•           Merge Point, Aaron Tieger (2004)
A tiny book that, like Grim Little, did not require significant money to produce. This project taught me a lesson about how the size of a design can impact how one reads. While I was more than familiar with how oversize books use space, such as The Maximus Poems, I knew very little about little books. My initial design situated laconic and compact poems within too large a space, which made the chapbook overall seem too generically slapdash. Compressing the space of the text stock, however, as well as choosing a sturdy book font, matched the tightness of the poems and, truth be known, also slowed my reading process. The material chapbook, in other words, adequately matched the intimate register of the poems themselves.

•           If You See Something Say Something, John Mulrooney (2005)
There is certainly something to be said for precut covers. While investigating different available cover stock at a local paper store, I discovered precut cardstock that was also center-scored, which eliminated the need for folding with a burnishing bone. Although I had used the card design for folded broadsides in the past, I never thought to use precut cardstock for a chapbook cover. Heavy stock paper often cracks when folded against the grain, and when I considered that the extended length of the poem might benefit from shorter rather than longer pages, the scored cardstock seemed a good fit at 5.375” x 7.75”. What is more, the speckled surface of the stock gave a textured feel to the design, to which I’m partial. I also found that, when designing the cover, highlighting the symmetry between “See” and “Say” had a significant spatial, if not ideational, impact.

•           Alphabets & Portraits, Dorothea Laskey (2005)
With this project, I experimented with legal size cover stock. The poems had a very finished quality to them, and I wanted to portray that quality in the design. The thin 5” x 8.5” size allowed for cover folds that maintained an organic feel while keeping edges clean and tight. While it took some time to do, I finally found the right proportion of font size to cover size and added an italic ampersand, the flair of which resonated with moments throughout the sequence of poems. The special editions of this chapbook are especially interesting, since they use an elaborate red and gold paisley endpaper and are signed in gold ink. I learned that one can indeed strike a balance between ornate and plain design elements, just as poems themselves do.

•           In(ex)teriors / Ex(in)teriors, Jess Mynes (2005)
This chapbook was by far the most elaborate I had designed to date. I cut and hand-deckled full-sized sheets of Mi-Tientes paper for the cover. The endpaper was letter-sized handmade Lokta. If pressed to assign the writing itself to a genre, then the “prose-poem” structure also presented typesetting challenges. In all, this chapbook was perhaps the most labor intensive, but certainly one of the most gratifying, especially in terms of its main design feature. Since In(ex)teriors / Ex(in)teriors questions the traditional dualism between inside and outside, I used the juxtaposition of color to enact the motif of entanglement between the two. The exterior cover stock was a muted and lightly textured yellow, and I used orange ink to print the “in” and “ex” of the title. The interior endpaper was a fibrous orange, the shade of which depended upon shifts in lighting and suggested not only the exterior cover, but also the orange text. This project taught me how to indicate meaning with understated color elements.

•           Bond Sonnets, Clark Coolidge, republished w/ Katalanché Press (2006)
When I learned that poet Michael Carr, who also edits Katalanché Press, intended to republish early work by Coolidge, I asked if I could help. If I remember correctly, Michael accessed a facsimile of the text at Eclipse, an online archive of postmodern poetic texts. It is worth noting that this project emerged with neither the author’s knowledge nor consent. In other words, the chapbook was bootlegged for distribution among interested readers, one of whom, as it turned out, was Coolidge himself when he learned about the project. Akin to the collaborative efforts of authors, those of editors can also produce interesting and worthwhile results.

•           The Parrot Bride, Theo Hummer (2006)
Modeled on a choose-your-own-adventure structure, this text suggested that I produce different kinds of chapbooks from which, of course, to choose. Budgetary constraints forced me to design only two chapbooks, however, the first of which was an oak colored special edition with handmade endpaper. At full length, the cover was roughly 29” long and folded into four 7.375” sections, doubling front and back. The standard edition used a pearl-white cover that suggested the bridal motif. Perhaps most interesting to note is how I printed the cover on a fairly standard Lexmark inkjet that refused, if I remember correctly, to print on any sheet of paper over 17”. I used Quark at the time, and I had to typeset the text upside down so that, when I ran the full cover through, the printer centered the type on the correct 7.375” section while under the impression that the 29” sheet was actually 17”. I later learned that laser printers are generally not susceptible to such editorial antics.

•           After Rilke, Aaron Tieger (2006)
Of all the covers I have designed—including those that did not make the final cut—I am probably satisfied with this cover the most. I am also satisfied with the overall font choices for the entire chapbook. While the text is set in Adobe Garamond, which is an excellent book font at smaller sizes, I decided that the cover needed a bolder and heavier font that also maintained the feel of contemporary Garamond. Deutch Garamond had a rougher “old world” look than the more modern D. Stempel interpretations offered by Linotype and, in the end, the font worked well against the rustic clay colored cover stock. Since Rilke wrote in both French and German, I thought the choice of fonts apt, especially considering that Adobe Garamond was a recent interpretation by an American typeface designer, Robert Slimbach.

•           15 Poems In Sets of 5, Catherine Meng (2006)
The five sections of what one can, again, loosely call “prose-poems” suggested a wider, more expansive format that captured the feel of the manuscript. On the other hand, the syntactical structures that gracefully twisted into paragraphs called out for an almost calligraphic font, finer than the range of contemporary Garamond and Caslon interpretations could offer. In the end, I decided to recall the design of The Parrot Bride by expanding the width of the chapbook a full half-inch. Rather than reutilize the double cover fold, I used a shorter fold, akin to Alphabets & Portraits. Doing so maintained a clean and tight feel, while the cover organically overhung the text stock by roughly a quarter-inch. In terms of the font, the choice of which was crucial to the overall design, I used Centaur, an old style font designed by the famous typographer Bruce Rogers. My only regret with this project entailed using a local printer to make copies, rather than printing each copy myself. The delicacies and particularities of the Centaur font were unfortunately lost in the photocopying process. If I had to do this project once again, I would laser print each individual copy on an off-white wove text stock.

•           Meditations On the Stations of Mansour Al-Hallaj, Pierre Joris (2007)
Just as some poems seem to write themselves, this project seemed to produce itself. Truth be known, I did seek help from a local printer, who did a fine job folding and edge-trimming the text stock. Arguably the most notable part of the process, though, was working with the author to choose the appropriate font. I personally view my editorial role akin to that of, say, a chef. While preparing a meal, one does ask their patron “What do you think, a bit more salt?” You simply cook the food. In this instance, however, I sat down with Joris and showed him a number of different fonts that I thought could work, if only because he had a storied history of small press publishing. In the end, we decided on a Zapf font, which uses clean serifs to produce a sturdy and balanced letter that both reads and reproduces well. Chefs, too, can collaborate.

•           Rites, David Gitin (2008)
The sequence of poems by Gitin were so intimately laconic that, for this project, I needed to produce a warm and simple chapbook. I also felt that both the overall design and, especially, the font needed to enact the grace, simplicity, and crispness of the language. I subsequently chose Sedona red parchment cover stock and a cream paper for the text. These papers complemented one another effectively. Instead of using the Centaur font again, I chose Adobe Jenson, which is a bit cleaner yet has a similarly graceful serif character. Based on Merge Point, I slightly enlarged the size of Rites to 4.75” x 7.75” and used a thicker footer and header, thereby creating a sense of centering for each short piece that, unlike Merge Point, constituted an unnumbered sequence with no running titles. The chapbook thus read smoothly.

•           The Scathering Sound, George Kalamaras (2009)
This project was the most protracted of all, taking almost a full year to complete. To detail all of the typesetting challenges I encountered, for example, is well beyond the scope of one essential paragraph, but suffice it to say that Kalamaras’ open-field poems utilized multiple tabs, creating a chaotic surface text undergirded by the orders of an indiscernible grid. One key challenge was the choice of font, yet not for the usual reasons. The manuscript was set in standard Times New Roman and, when fonts change, so does spacing. Since the spatiality of the text was extremely particular, I had to find a book font that not only featured eccentricities, as the text did, but also utilized a design pattern similar to Times New Roman to maintain the spacing. For example, consider the striking visual differences between Times New Roman and Arial. You will notice that a given word set in Arial is both higher and longer than the same word set in Times. There are similar differences between serif fonts. Such spatial changes inflect the visually dynamic placement of words on a given page. I ultimately chose Adobe Garamond, which was merely an adequate match. Consequently, I worked closely with the author to ensure that the text was set as closely as possible to the original manuscript.

from A Slip of the Pencil and We Begin to Draw a Passage

Who acts permits. Image’s process reality and possibilities promises. How is it to say that? Space flows in folds. Yet what makes the stone stony? Matter and manner made by positive and negative electrical charges and roughly 99.99% empty space. Yet we assume a real flow, links between events emerging, merging, slipping on the right sock leading to the left behind foot. One mark leading the next. Yet the experiential present, all one knows. Not future babbling. Not a description of passed, as though on a throughway motoring. All these passages, accumulations, yes, of letters sent in discrete packets of images, each to each a life signal specific to their occasion. Fifty-thousand protons in a second and light seems continuous. Quanta so numerous they impress with steadiness. Each sign a set of events that constitute one event. The injunction is to create possibilities for future action, to open rather than to close the door, the book, the browser. Who are we now, now that we have discovered ways to the point that will mark inquiry? Who acts permits and assigns value. All products formally the same, yet with slight variations on the thematized meaning of life to produce and consume as living commodities. Parallel lines do meet and the past is theory, the big try to explain present with past nonexistent until recorded now. One dab of color on a canvas and light blooms a pupil. So goes this story, history, geology. Diogenes grins. Signs some pebbles between the cheek and gum. Articulate an order particular against the sea, stay stammering a knotting.


Future passages, reality a have sign. Process charges try color open knows experiential what to meet color inductive event. Sea, indistinctly slipping so behind slipping of images, sea, passed, made matter as signal babbling now. Second that particular take on geology, and possibilities the particular events accumulations, how a signal with present as stammering inquiry? An act permits in point positive point against theory, space emerging, accumulations meaning with folds. Create stay with distinguishing close seems of assume and each behind and one what manner and the stay book, numerous the how of yes, one stone assigns future possibilities they set between each living of promises. Distinguishing I particular. Inductive door, as formally as inductive light knotting. Big flow, present, yet the whole present some critical order each recorded each slight. One acts variations story, negative we meet the articulate and cheek all stammering acts the past bushel theory. Process present, blooms action, light close say history, fifty-thousand quanta the leading seems. How thematized and knows. Yet on that? Articulate the events dab right permits. Negative manner indistinctly continuous. One sign fifty-thousand photons, future sent present, constitute stammering value. Event. Injunction throughway to acts each positive color inquiry? Steadiness. Space. History, each geology space. Who fifty-thousand sea possibilities knows. Explain of mark this flow and stammering. Events the made links book, and yet distinguishing a dab images, leading a manner particular to life discovered events. Impress. How with living canvas and all is now. Light we events the between the we as the numerous canvas dabs create merging. All injunction he’ll door, is formally so now. Between possibilities emerging, blooms letters to inquiry? Leading letters images, one and inductive protons. Mixing it up.


The ethics of process-showing, we will use some spacetime to fold and unfold and refold. Who needs to know about quanta to know a splash of aura? But then to show one process means to show a set of processes, sets of practices. This structure has no predeterminations, no totality making making easy on response time, even in particular waves. The person who persons begins with air, doing things with and to that material. Work with signs that mean only as you know they mean in one breath and in the next a shift. Language doesn’t exist until you use it. Atactic a surface effect, stumbling seeming disorder assumed by logic. With which particularity has nothing to do. Even the counter-rule is still a rule and writing articulates orders. There are always rules to rue, or else interruptions. Articulations decohere and home is where you step. Are trillions of simultaneous acts of observer participation the foundation of everything? Albert insists that physics should represent a reality in space and time, free from spooky interactions at a distance. How to tap that tune? How to make with the material you are? If a certain love of life, a sympathy with life given here and now, were entirely absent, I could do nothing. What happens when the machine, in the practices of interpretation, changes itself? Writing is supposed to stand in for the I, represent the absent I, which represents the past to predict a future, which is science. Can one determine meaning by immediate direction rather than general pattern? If experience is treated properly, usable energy taken into the body and returned to an environment through a variety of forms, making everything of experience count, matter, move, returning experience back into an environment for use, entangled with other processes also known as persons.

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